But how does that work?
It is worth exploring the connection between self-awareness and creativity. Leaders can tap that well-spring of creativity and innovation within themselves and their team members by understanding how the connection works.
First, just what does self-awareness do for a leader? Among other things, it removes blind spots that undermine possibilities. Self-aware leaders are aware of their own emotions and thoughts, and they know that others may have different emotions and thoughts. With this awareness, leaders can embrace new or different approaches and ideas…opening the way for creativity.
Self-awareness in a leader means she engages in self-enquiry in an effort to be authentic and confident in who she is. Acting from the base of self-awareness, a leader then can be open to new opportunities and diverse ideas, rather than fearfully resisting them. This mindset encourages others to take risks and builds an environment of innovation and inspiring change.
In this kind of environment amazing ideas can flourish. It is said that Arthur Fry dreamed up the multi-million dollar idea of Post-It Notes while daydreaming in church….perhaps an environment conducive to reflection and self-awareness.
Another trait that self-aware leaders often exhibit that encourages creativity is holding fire on judging and evaluating nascent ideas brought forth by their team members. There is time for parsing, sorting and for feedback but self-aware leaders know that the early stage of ideation is not that time.
Michelangelo said it. The sculpture is in the stone and it was his job to release it. He did not spend the majority of his time criticizing the stone.
A leader can also encourage self-awareness, and therefore creativity, in his team members by thoughtful inquiry and attentive observation. What are his team member’s predilections for how they work, when they work, and in what kind of workspace? Extroverts of course often create “out-loud” while those less gregarious may require quiet time for the creative juices to flow.
The leader who shares stories of how she created an idea or opportunity fosters permission to create. She can also prompt creativity more directly by saying “That problem demands a creative solution. How shall we approach that?”
Self-awareness gives rise to openness and empathy. From that platform, great ideas can spring up.